By BRIAN MULHERIN
Daily News Staff Writer
Manistee County Road Commission Manager Jerry Peterson said his county is having great success using road salt pre-treated with beet juice. The city of Ludington started using the product, sold commercially under the name Geomelt, Thursday.
“What we’ve experienced with it is about a 30-40 percent reduction in the amount of salt needed to do the same job,” Peterson said. “It does take about three applications on the road before it shows any savings. The first application, there’s not enough of the beet juice residue on the road to make a difference.”
But Peterson said the success after the third application was obvious.
“The nicest thing is that it reduces the freezing rate,” Peterson said. “It doesn’t stop corrosion 100 percent, but it’s supposed to reduce corrosion.”
David Widrig, the maintenance coordinator for the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Cadillac Service Center, said the product has worked as advertised for Manistee. He did note that Ludington’s heavy rains Thursday probably reduced the effectiveness of the GeoMelt. He said rain tends to wash the product off the road.
But other than that, the reviews are nothing but positive.
“When you use less material or salt on the road, you spend less time out there so you use less fuel and everything,” Widrig said.
Peterson said there is one thing that’s very noticeably different about GeoMelt.
“It does smell like a still in your garage when it’s fermenting overnight.”
Peterson said he expects his plow drivers will be using only the pre-treated salt in the future. He said there’s some calcium chloride left in his garage because a supplier told him a mix of that salt and pre-treated salt would improve the effectiveness even more. Peterson said that turned out not to be true.
Asked why all 83 counties in Michigan haven’t switched to the product yet, Peterson said he believes it got some bad reviews a couple years ago.
“I think what was going on was they did not have the blend perfected yet,” Peterson said. “We tried it two years ago and it didn’t respond as well as it did a year ago. They came back and said ‘Hey, everything’s tweaked.’
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“This new formula, I have to admit, it works.”
Oceana County Road Commission Managing Engineer John Foss said his drivers will likely experiment with the product next year.
Peterson backed up Road Solutions, Inc’s claims that the product isn’t sticky, doesn’t stain cars and clothes and doesn’t attract deer to lick the roads.
That’s not to say it has zero drawbacks.
“My drivers know,” Peterson said. “They can smell it. It’s got a different smell to it. You can tell that it’s in your truck.”
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